By: Alan Sculley
For: The Eagle Tribune
The Allman Brothers Band has reconvened for a short summer tour that essentially marks the 40th anniversary of the group many people credit with inventing Southern rock.
They have no special plans to commemorate the milestone, however, said bassist Oteil Burbridge in an interview in advance of their Saturday performance at the Comcast Center in Mansfield.
Instead, the band is focusing on getting back to work and back on track in a year that presented difficulties that caused them to put their music on hold.
Gregg Allman, keyboardist, singer and a founding member, suffered from hepatitis C and spent much of 2008 recovering to a point where he felt healthy enough to hit the road. Burbridge said Allman is getting stronger with each passing week after going through a difficult treatment regimen earlier this year.
In fact, the band didn’t even have a chance to practice for the short summer tour before it kicked off Tuesday in Bethel, N.Y.
Burbridge didn’t offer specifics on plans for a song set and how it would be different from the 2007 tour that found the Allman Brothers Band dusting off some rarely played originals and doing a number of intriguing covers, including Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed And Confused,” Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression” and Van Morrison’s “And It Stoned Me.”
“We always mix it up,” he said. “We’re not going to go out here and just do the same old thing we did before. It’s just as boring for us as it is for fans that might come to every show on the tour. So we’re going to do that just to keep ourselves interested, too.”
Aside from the summer tour that will run through August and a two-week series of dates in late September and early October, there’s not much else on the band’s calendar right now. That means no studio time to work on a new CD.
“We couldn’t do anything while Gregg was going through his treatment,” Burbridge said.
Still, he said, band members continue to write music. He expects they will eventually have a follow-up to their last studio release, 2003’s “Hittin’ The Note,” which drew universal praise as one of the best albums of the band’s long career.
The epic track from the CD “Instrumental Illness” won a Grammy Award for best rock instrumental in 2004. Within the group the feeling is that the Allman Brothers Band has only gotten better since recording “Hittin’ The Note.”
In a 2005 interview, Allman already was sharing his enthusiasm — and even evoking the name of his late brother, the legendary guitarist Duane Allman — in describing the creative health of the Allman Brothers Band.
“Everybody gets along so well in this band, in the Allman Brothers. And it’s such a pleasure playing with them,” Allman said at the time. “I mean, it’s like back when my brother was in the band, it feels that good. It hasn’t sounded as good as it does now since my brother was here.”
Duane Allman was a key, core member of the original lineup. There are those fans who continue to believe the group never was the same after he died in a motorcycle accident in October 1971.
Prior to that tragedy, the Allman Brothers Band already had established itself as one of rock’s most influential groups, essentially inventing the Southern rock format — mixing together rock and blues with hints of country and jazz.
There have been periods when subsequent versions of the Allman Brothers Band produced solid — even vibrant — music. After the death of bassist Berry Oakley in October 1972 (also in a motorcycle accident), the lineup was revamped and in 1975, they released one of their most popular albums, “Brothers and Sisters.”
This version of the group fell apart, though, in 1982. They reformed in 1989, with Warren Haynes assuming the slide guitar slot alongside the group’s other original guitarist, Dickey Betts, and came up with two more fine efforts, the 1990 CD “Seven Turns” and “Shades Of Two Worlds” in 1991.
They’ve been together since, though there have been continued shifts in the lineup and moments when the band’s future was in question.